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This sobering account of what life was like to grow up in South Africa as a black young man in the era of apartheid gives testament to the many different constraints imposed upon such individuals by society and culture. One of the central constraints imposed by society is the need for all blacks to have a pass book that was needed in order to work, move between different areas and avoid being arrested. Note how the narrator is told about the importance of a pass book by his mother:
"What's a pass, Mama?" I knew vaguely what a pass was, but not its reality.
"It's an important book that we black people must have in order always, and carry with us at all times." ... There was something about it which made me fearful, helpless. But I could not figure out what about it made me feel that way. It seemed a mere book. Yet it was, I was to later find out, the black man's passport to existence.
Society therefore necessitates the possession of a pass book for all black people, and, as the quote indicates, it is vitally important, the "passport to existence." Yet also note the fear and helplessness that the pass book induces in the narrator. The second constraint that can be identified is the hunger and suffering that the narrator and his siblings experience. This is made more acute when his father is arrested and placed in jail, as Mark and his siblings starved due to the lack of provision. Even though his father drinks and is abusive, he was able to provide for some of his family's basic needs. This chronic lack of the basic necessities of life is a massive constraint that is imposed upon the narrator.
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